Metro Workers Need Relief

Operators use vehicles as bathrooms

A lot of riders think Metro stinks. And now we know the reason why.

Unsuck D.C. Metro stirred up a, um, poopstorm when an “anonymous tipster” wrote in just after the first of the year to point out that a recent inspector general report found that WMATA workers “use the pocket tracks (an area where the train can park and permit the train operator to reverse ends and travel in the opposite direction) as a lavatory” in the tunnels beneath several stops.

Now, the Washington Examiner reports “bus and train operators have had to resort to relieving themselves inside their trains and buses.” One longtime operator told the paper, “I have. Oh, everybody has. I even soiled my clothes once. That's why the trains smell like urine near where the operators are.”

For once, the much-maligned Metro union seems to have a point. Members and leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 say the operators certainly don’t want to have to do their business on the trains and buses, but that they cannot always find time for a bathroom break when they need one.

Though a Metro spokesperson says operators have been reminded to take breaks, union chief Jackie Jeter told the Examiner that that does not fix the problem. “The breaks have always been there,” Jeter said. “It's a matter of whether or not you get to take it.”

If a driver is running behind schedule or faced with heavy traffic, the potty-stop option may not exist, even if the break is available on paper.

One former train worker offered this halfhearted defense: “We try to be very conscious of health issues, if possible. We don't just pee anywhere.”

When operators gotta go, they gotta go. But that means their bosses -- and passengers -- need to realize that that means they gotta stop, and take a quick break. The brief delay is much better than the unsanitary alternative.

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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